Tuesday, 3 February 2009

'This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call the Twilight Zone'

The Twilight Zone
Director: Ron Winston
Written by: Rod Serling

Episode: 'The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street
                    Season One. Episode 22. 1960

I have always had a bizarre fascination with the unknown and paranormal. My first encounter with The Twilight Zone was at the Disney theme park in Orlando, Fla when I was younger... and I must admit.. it completely freaked me out. More the ride then the story, but even to this day the programme still holds that off-balance feel that kinda freaks you out though you're not sure why. Every episode features a different story that looks at happenings that can not be accounted for. Nothing childish like, more like sending shivers down your spine. Without giving the wrong impression.. they aren't scary, not unless you're completely paranoid but like I previously mentioned, they just leave you a little off-balanced and weirded out. What also adds nicely to the creep factor, is that every episode is narrated.. and the voice actor who also happens to be the writer, Serling, has the exact right mystery to his tone with an extra devilish charm that intrigues you into the story from the very beginning.
 'The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street' looks at a quaint and friendly American suburban street. Suddenly a loud noise is heard flying over, and with that all the electricity and power is cut off. Everyone becomes inquisitive and a small neighbourhood boy tells of a story he read in a comic of when aliens invaded and sent spies to suss out where to invade. Typically, the residents start to believe it and soon enough they all become suspicious of one another, questioning who among them are the monsters. With a murder and more drama the road starts to tear itself apart. By the very end of the episode, the camera pulls back onto a towering hill and we see a couple of aliens watching the frantic riots. They state that when humans are faced with any sort of dilemma, they all turn crazy and don't know how to deal with it.. which makes them perfect victims for the invasion of the extra-terrestrial. 

Every episode is in black and white, even up to the very last one which aired in 1964. Television didn't come out into colour until the late 50's, which since the first episode of the Twilight Zone was in 1959, could suggest that at that time maybe colour wasn't available everywhere or that it may have been seen as a high risk when promoting a new series as no-one could tell how audiences would respond to the change. I personally though feel that this series wouldn't have worked so well if it had been in colour and I believe that's why it always stayed true to the mono-tone fashion. First of all, despite that the Twilight Zone became produced in a time of revolutionary change, the 50's and early 60's were still very traditional so the feel of the programme reflects that. With 'The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street' as an example, we see that the road is very neat and orderly. All the houses are well kept, all the families are nuclear with a stay at home mom and a working dad, and everyone knows their neighbours and each other. With that in mind, this show projects the story better in black and white as it then seems more old-fashioned and traditional. Another perspective is how the idea of black and white keeps the pretense of mystery and keeps the tension high. Since most programmes were experimenting with colour now, to have this one black and white, makes you kind of feel like it's not a real world and that despite how involved you will become whilst watching, it's a place you'll never be able to enter. Hence the idea of a Twilight Zone. The fact that the audience always then feels that there's a boundary between them and this world enables to keep off-balance tension of each episode. If you look at 'Midsomer Murders', the popular British Television series which tackles a new mystery every episode... I realize that unlike the Twilight Zone, they solve their mysterious but in comparison with it in colour, I always feel like it's more realistic and could very well happen in my town if there was a crazy guy on the loose. By keeping the Twilight Zone therefore in monochrome allows us to wonder whether these incidents really are silly or whether they could very well happen. After all so many people to this day question the after world and I can admit to taking Halloween a little too seriously every year.

The theme song is notorious, with just two notes played one after the other, and other music featured in the episodes captures the same eerie, slow, creepy feel. One reason why this programme worked so well is that not only did the creators keep in mind that the stories themselves were bizarre and weird but they knew how to capture the feeling of that as well. With it staying true in black and white, the music, and the narrative tales...The Twilight Zone is everything you would want from another world and more. Serling himself had a talent for creating out-there stories and intense dramas. He wrote the screen play for 'Planet of the Apes' in 1968 which considering it's a planet ruled by apes highlights how crazy and and wild his imagination was.. which I think after watching all 5 seasons you will come to agree with. 

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